Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Winter Meetings

Walt has been to and from Anaheim for this year's winter meetings with nothing to show for it other than the departure of Tyler Johnson. (Don't worry - I suspect he'll be back.)

Of course, a couple of things did happen over the last few days.

Mike Matheny

The Giants signed Matheny to a 3 year deal worth $10.5 million, plus an option for a 4th year at $4 million. Holy cow! I've always liked Matheny, but that deal is beyond crazy. We're talking about a guy that's never posted an OPS+ above 80, and who's career mark is 63. As in, he's 37% worse than an average major league hitter. And now he gets to play half of his games in a park that (other than last year) is tough to hit in.

Yes, I realize he has 3 gold gloves. He's supposedly a good game caller, works well with his teammates, etc. But can anyone honestly say that he was worth $3.5 million per year (on average) through the 2007 seasons with Molina apparently ready to go now? Molina will likely be on par with Matheny with the glove in 2005, and will probably be out-hitting him no later than 2006 - for less than $500,000 each year. And the Cardinals get a compensation draft pick to boot? I like seeing the Cardinals improve without giving up anything.

And on a side note - Brian Sabean has now added Omar Vizquel at $3 million a year and Matheny at $3.5 million. In a pitchers park. Yes, their defense should be a little better this year, but how many automatic outs can one team afford? Maybe Barry can arrange for some arthritis cream for his new, younger teammates...

Edgar Renteria

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jocketty has informed Renteria (or his people, if you will) that the Cardinals are standing firm with their 4 year, $32 million back loaded contract offer. No more years, no more money. Which, I have to say, is fine with me.

Renteria circa 2003 would be somewhat of a bargain at an average salary of $8 million per year. We're talking about a guy who hit .330 with a .394 OBP, 34 stolen bases, 100 RBI, and gold glove caliber defense. That season he was 31% better than an average hitter - which is amazing for a middle infielder.

Renteria circa 2004 would be ripping off the Cardinals making $32 million for the next 4 years. I can live with the defense and the .287 average, but he only got on base at a .327 clip and saw his OPS plummet by 146 points over the previous year. He was 10% worse than average. Still not bad for a middle infielder, but elite? Hardly.

The Cardinals are doing the right thing here. If Renteria walks, good for him. He can make tons of extra money while playing for a great franchise. And the Cardinals can use the extra cash to address their team needs, plus garner two extra draft picks for their trouble. And if he takes it? Hopefully he'll revert to 2003 form and make the team even stronger in 2005.

And what kind of shape will the Redbirds be in should they lose Renteria? Well, that depends on who they are able to plug into their middle infield. I still hear lots of talk about Placido Polanco and Jerry Hairston, Jr. Polanco is a free agent, while I've heard that Baltimore is likely to non-tender Hairston in the next couple of weeks. I haven't heard if the Cardinals are thinking of playing Polanco at short, but I certainly am. Would that work?

Offense

2004 Stats

Renteria - .287/.327/.401
Womack - .307/.349/.385

Polanco - .298/.345/.441
Hairston - .303/.378/.397

Based on last year, you'd improve both from an OBP and a SLG standpoint by picking up Hairston and Polanco.

Career Stats

Renteria - .289/.346/.400
Womack - .274/.319/.362

Polanco - .295/.339/.410
Hairston - .261/.334/.371

This is more of what one might expect - Polanco being a probable slight downgrade from Renteria, with Hairston being a probable upgrade over Womack. How about with the glove?

Fielding

Career Stats

Renteria - .969 Fielding Percentage, 4.25 Range Factor
Womack - .975 FP, 4.73 RF

Polanco - .982 FP, 3.57 RF (at shortstop)
Hairston - .981 FP, 5.05 RF

Once again, about what you would expect. A slight downgrade defensively at short, with a slight upgrade at 2nd. And, of course, both players would provide the Cardinals with a ton of flexibility. Polanco has played at 2nd, 3rd, and short, while just last year Hairston played all 3 outfield positions along with 2nd and 3rd base.

How much could Polanco and Hairston be signed for? I assume the Cardinals could easily land Polanco for $5 million per season for the next 3 years. Hairston might be willing to accept a low deal in 2005 for the chance to be a starter for a World Series contender, which could really work in the Cardinals favor from a long term perspective. Hairston will not turn 29 until the end of May, and over the last 4 years has had a great trend in regard to OBP and OPS+.

2001 - .305 OBP, 78 OPS+
2002 - .329 OBP, 89 OPS+
2003 - .353 OBP, 97 OPS+
2004 - .378 OBP, 100 OPS+

Both Polanco and Hairston have a realistic shot at being above average hitters in 2005 - which is more than Renteria and Womack did in 2004, and would thus improve the team.

Hopefully, we'll know something about the Cardinals middle infield by Christmas. Personally - I'm still excited about the possibilities.


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